Press release

Cybercriminals Target Americans Planning Summer Vacations to Mexico and Other Destinations

Sponsored by Businesswire

Today, McAfee reveals how cybercriminals are capitalizing on consumers’
risky travel booking habits. The findings show that popular summer
destinations in Mexico, Europe – and, surprisingly, Canmore, Canada –
generate the riskiest search results when people are hunting for
vacation deals online.

Top summer destinations hackers are targeting via potentially malicious

1. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

2. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

3. Amsterdam, Netherlands

4. Venice, Italy

5. Canmore, Canada

Taking advantage of the high search volumes for accommodation and deals
in these popular destinations, cybercriminals drive unsuspecting users
to potentially malicious websites that can be used to install malware
and steal personal information or passwords. Unfortunately, McAfee’s
survey of 1,000 Americans found that nearly one-third of consumers (31%)
are leaving the door open to fraud because they do not check the
authenticity of a website before booking a trip online.

Bargain shopping can have a high cost

McAfee’s survey confirms that cybercriminals’ tactic of targeting
vacation goers is paying off, with nearly one-fifth of consumers (18%)
reporting that they have been scammed, or came very close to being
scammed, when booking a vacation online. Bargain-hunting Americans are
most at risk, with nearly a third of vacation scam victims (31%) being
defrauded after spotting a deal that was too good to be true.

Unfortunately, risky bargain shopping behavior can come at a high cost
with approximately 30% of travel-related scam victims reported that they
lost between $1,000 and $3,000 as a result of the fraudulent activity.
Meanwhile, a small group of victims (13%) shared that their identity was
stolen after sharing their passport details with cybercriminals during
the booking process.

The majority of survey respondents (80%) shared that they worry about
having their identity stolen during the research and booking process or
while traveling abroad for summer vacations. But despite these worries,
less than 25% of people feel that they have the right security in place
to prevent their identity from being stolen.

“The last thing that consumers should have to deal with during or after
a vacation is an identity scam or personal privacy issue,” comments Gary
Davis, McAfee’s Chief Consumer Security Evangelist. “While cybersecurity
threats unfortunately exist during most stages of the booking and travel
experience, consumers can take proactive steps to protect themselves and
minimize the risk to ensure scams and other nefarious activities don’t
spoil summer travel plans.”

Keeping your data safe

Despite 36% of people expressing concerns of having their personal data
stolen while on vacation, almost half (42%) said they either do not
check the security of their internet connection or willingly connect to
an unsecured network while traveling.

With 95% of Americans using their personal devices on vacation, it is
concerning to discover network security is not being prioritized. This
is further amplified by the finding that people are using devices for
data-sensitive activity such as checking and sending e-mails (66%) and
managing money through a banking app (35%).

Additionally, two in five (40%) Americans said they use work devices
while on vacation. Despite work devices being connected to a wealth of
personal and private data via corporate cloud, email and productivity
services, the vast majority admitted they connect to public Wi-Fi in the
airport (46%) and hotel (69%), potentially putting sensitive business
information at risk.

McAfee’s tips for identifying authentic booking
sites and safe surfing on holiday:

1. Only access verified websites. Only click on websites
that your security software has identified as being safe. For example McAfee
will identify safe websites with a green checkmark and
will block malware and phishing sites if you accidentally click on a
malicious link from your search results.

2. Use trusted platforms and verified payment methods when
finalizing your bookings.
Fraudsters may try to lure you away from a
trusted platform with the promise of discounted rates. Remember to keep
all your communications and bookings to trusted platforms, such as,
and verify the site before entering payment information. This will help
protect you from phishing and other cyber fraud.

3. Utilize an identity theft solution. With all this
personal data floating around online, it’s important that you protect
your identity. Use an identity theft solution, such as McAfee
Identity Theft Protection
, to help protect personally identifiable
information from identity theft and fraud.

4. Always connect with caution. If you have to conduct
transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, use a virtual private network
(VPN) like McAfee
Safe Connect
to help keep your connection secure.

Research methodology

McAfee conducted research into the riskiest holiday destinations, using
McAfee WebAdvisor site ratings to determine the number of risky websites
generated by searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo!, that included top
holiday destination and search terms likely to yield potentially
malicious websites in the results. An overall risk percentage was
calculated for each destination using the total number of risky websites
divided by the number of search results returned. “Riskiest vacation
destination” really means that these destinations are likely popular
search subjects.

Search terms used this year:

  • 2019 vacation
  • All-inclusive vacation
  • Best vacations 2019
  • Cheap trip deals
  • Last minute vacation
  • Travel deals
  • Trip accommodations
  • Vacation
  • Vacation deals
  • Vacation packages

Using McAfee WebAdvisor data, resulting domains and URLs were measured
and assigned a risk of “high,” “medium” and “unverified.” URLs were then
given a score between negative 127 and positive 127 with higher scores
indicating a riskier website. The score was calculated using the
following formula:

Danger = 1*(high count) + 0.5*(medium count) + 0.1*(unverified count)

The most popular summer vacation destinations were identified based on
HomeAway destination booking data for summer holidays in 2018.

McAfee additionally commissioned 3Gem to conduct a survey of 1,000
adults in the US on their travel booking habits in May 2019.